TAMPA, Fla. - Masahiro Tanaka's slight dip in velocity this spring is by design, the pitcher said.
Tanaka said he is throwing more two-seam fastballs, or sinkers, than four-seamers, which have more velocity.
"It's not going to hurt him to have another type of fastball in the mix," pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. "With his location it can be an effective pitch."
Tanaka's four-seam fastball averaged 92.74 mph last season, according to PITCHf/x, while his two-seamer averaged 91.44. So far this spring scouts have had Tanaka's four-seamer in the 89-91 range, while his two-seamer has been in the range of 88 mph.
"I think there's room for both of them," Joe Girardi said after watching Tanaka allow two earned runs and four hits with seven strikeouts Wednesday against the Mets. "The four-seamer, you're going to see more velo. He's just trying to improve his game."
Tanaka's velocity, of course, is a fair topic because the righthander missed 21/2 months last season with a slight ulnar collateral ligament tear in his right elbow and the Yankees have been watching him closely all spring. But Tanaka said he is not holding back in an attempt to protect his elbow which, by all accounts, is 100 percent.
"I'm not worried about where I'm at right now," Tanaka said through his translator. "I'm not a pitcher that throws 95 mph every single pitch. I might get that maybe once or twice in a game. Given that, I'm OK where I'm at right now."
Though Tanaka was one of the American League's most dominant starters last season before he got hurt, he said his four-seamer got hit harder than he would have liked, the reason for the extra work on his sinker.
"I'm working on the two-seamers on purpose," he said. "It doesn't mean I'm not going to be throwing any four-seamers [in the regular season]."
And, yes, he and the Yankees believe the pitcher, whose average fastball last spring was only a tick or two higher than it is now, will see a slight increase in his velocity once the adrenaline of the regular season kicks in.
"I think he's done well," Rothschild said. "Health is the biggest thing. I think he's paced himself as far as really turning the ball loose."
Mets manager Terry Collins was impressed. "Looks like he's healthy," Collins said. "What did he have, seven strikeouts? That's pretty good."
Cashman on A-Rod
Alex Rodriguez, who went 1-for-3, is hitting .290 this spring with a .389 OBP.
"The way he looks so far down here," Cashman said, "he's definitely pushing himself in the mix for full-time DH consideration."
The 39-year-old Rodriguez said he is pleased where he's at.
"Obviously that feels good but I have a lot of work to do," he said of Cashman's remarks.
With Anthony Rieber